Video: Holohan and Watt face questions, maternity hospital controversy continues

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Santina Cawley murder trial

A woman who is on trial for the murder of a two-year-old girl arrived to the home of a lifelong friend not wearing any shoes and with bleeding feet and said that her partner had accused her of trying to suffocate his child.

Karen Harrington of Lakelands Crescent in Mahon in Cork is on trial charged with the murder of Santina Cawley on July 5th, 2019. At the time Ms Harrington (37) was in a relationship with Michael Cawley, the father of Santina.

Yvonne Walsh, who is a friend of Ms Harrington, told the jury at the trial that she was having a cigarette on the wall outside her home in Cork at around 5.30am to 6am on July 5th, 2019 when she saw Ms Harrington approaching her property.

"I thought I was seeing a ghost. I know Karen. I knew she was distressed. She had no shoes and her feet were bleeding. I said ‘what is wrong?’ I went to hug her."

Holohan and Watt face questions

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The secretary-general of the Department of Health has denied that he approved funding for chief medical officer Tony Holohan’s secondment to Trinity College without the go-ahead from Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly.

Robert Watt told the Oireachtas Health Committee on Wednesday morning that details of the proposal for the open-ended secondment still needed to be worked out when he sent a letter to the Dublin university on March 16th.

“There’s no basis upon which I can approve spending for new areas of spending without the approval of the minister – I don’t have that authority,” he said.

Citing the letter to Trinity, Sinn Féin’s David Cullinane and Social Democrat co-leader Róisín Shortall accused Mr Watt of committing the Department to “substantial” multiannual funding worth more than €20 million over a 10-year period without Mr Donnelly’s approval.

National Maternity Hospital controversy

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has defended his Government’s plan to continue with the relocation of the National Maternity Hospital to land once owned by the Sisters of Charity religious order, saying the agreement effectively amounts to public ownership.

Earlier today, the former master of the National Maternity Hospital said Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly "is not qualified" to make promises about care at the new facility.

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Ministers Stephen Donnelly and Simon Harris insisted this morning the hospital will be entirely independent from a catholic ethos and all reproductive and abortion care will be provided there.

Labour Party leader Ivana Bacik meanwhile called for the State to issue a Compulsory Purchase Order for the land on which the new hospital will be built.

College costs cut expected

Irish students can expect a cut at a future date in college fees, the Minister for Higher Education has said.

Simon Harris said the announcement of a new funding plan is a landmark moment for staff and students that will reverse the long-term decline of Irish universities in world rankings.

The announcement, which sees extra investment of €307 million, will plug a key funding gap that dates back to the economic crash, Mr Harris said. It will mean more lecturers and improved student-staff ratios, he pledged.

The plan will also include reforms of student grants, including an increase in the student maintenance grant of at least €200 per year – a move that will benefit around 62,000 students.

US army veterans fined

Two US army veterans in their 80s have been fined €5,000 each for interfering with the operations of Shannon Airport as part of an anti-war protest three years ago.

On Tuesday a jury at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court acquitted Ken Mayers (85) and Tarak Kauff (80) of criminal damage to an airport perimeter fence and of trespassing the airport with the intent to commit an offence or interfere with property.

The jury returned a majority verdict of guilty on the separate charge of interfering with the operation, safety or management of an airport by entering the runway area and causing the airport to close.

The court heard both men served in the United States military before becoming anti-war activists in the 1960s. They are members of a US-based group called Veterans for Peace.

Fine Gael TD exits politics

Fine Gael TD and former education minister Joe McHugh has announced he will not contest the next general election.

The Donegal TD served as a minister of state for a number of departments between 2014 and 2017 and was government chief whip from 2017 to 2018 before becoming education minister in October 2018.

He did not feature in Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar’s team in the current coalition government and in a statement said that the last two years have given him a chance to assess his work and family life.

In a statement following the news, Mr Varadkar thanked Mr McHugh “for his work for successive governments, for Ireland, for Fine Gael and for his constituents.”

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